Joe McPhee has played with a number of European improvisers during his long and distinguished career, and the rapport he strikes with bassist Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten is immediate and compelling. McPhee plays alto saxophone while Haker-Flaten plays both bowed and plucked bass. The range of sounds and textures that that are able to get some such few raw materials is very impressive, such as on "Cerulean Mood Swing" where McPhee's anguished Albert Ayler inspired saxophone cries out against the solidity of the strongly rooted bass, both intertwined in the depths of the improvisation. "Requiem for an Empty Heart" explores darker terrain, opening with a careful bass statement, setting a mood of deft awareness in the moment. Raw and distressed saxophone builds in with a vocal like cry of someone wailing in loss and pain. The music moves into a slow and subtle arena hinting at the depth of emotion that is the blues while retaining their own individual voices. "I Love You Too Little Baby" opens with probing saxophone, gently caressing an idea and slowly building it block by block. When Haker-Flaten enters, they lick up the pace, driving the music forward with thick slabs of sound carrying through the open space. "The Shape of Blues to Come" has a nod to Ornette Coleman in the title, and retains some of his questing spirit developing swirling bowed bass and open-hearted saxophone figures. The music gets progressively more exciting, building tension from the interaction of the instruments and the personalities of the performers. They move dynamically through a slower and more open section with bass slithering along the ground in a fast and unpredictable manner, before McPhee's saxophone comes back in and they move to the conclusion. Two musicians finding common ground in the blues is nothing new, but this was a unique and well played album by two experienced musicians who move the blues into the realm of free improvisation without losing any of the emotional resonance that the music contains. Blue Chicago Blues - amazon.com
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